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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Venezuelan journalist leaves country due to alleged threats received after publishing report about Tocorón prison



Venezuelan journalist Jesús Medina announced on Nov. 23 that he left his country due to threats against him and his family because of his work. In early November, Medina went missing for two days in what he says was an abduction due to his reporting on how Tocorón prison in northern Venezuela is allegedly controlled by prisoners.

"I had to leave my country, Venezuela, because of persecution from the Venezuelan State, because of persecution from the government of Nicolás Maduro," Medina said in a video posted on his Twitter account that was recorded from the Colombian side of the border between the two countries

In the video, Medina accused the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) and Diosdado Cabello, chavista leader and current delegate in the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly, of being responsible for the alleged kidnapping and threats he has been receiving. He also said that these authorities created "bots,” ghost accounts on social networks, to threaten him, and that "there are a lot of military members involved in my kidnapping.”

In October, while reporting in Tocorón prison, Medina and two international journalists were detained by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) for two days. The Venezuelan journalist was allegedly detained for working at the website Dolar Today, supposedly blocked by the Venezuelan government for reporting on the black market exchange rate of currencies and publishing articles "contrary to the chavista regime," El Pais reported at the time.

Medina's report, published at the end of October, states that the prison in northern Venezuela is controlled by a criminal leader named "El Niño Guerrero," who allegedly "has more power than the director in charge from the Penitentiary Ministry.”

On Nov. 4, Medina disappeared, reappearing on the night of Nov. 6 on the Caracas - La Guaira highway. The journalist was semi-nude and had suffered severe blows to his face and body, El Nacional reported.

At the time, Medina said on Twitter that he was tortured and threatened with death by people who abducted him, and he told the press he did not know whether these people belonged to political forces, armed forces or organized crime, Contacto Hoy reported.

Constituent delegate Cabello said on Nov. 8 on his TV program “Con el mazo dando” that the alleged abduction of Medina "smelled bad." “Hopefully the security agencies will investigate what they have to investigate and the true truth will come out," he said, implying that it could be a sham.

In the video he posted on Twitter, Medina responded to Cabello's statement asking the delegate to show the journalist's statement on his show, screened weekly by state broadcaster VTV.

In an interview with EFE published on Nov. 26, Medina said he will spend a few days in Bogota, the Colombian capital, and that he will seek international support and protection. He also said he intends to return soon to Venezuela.

"Obviously I will not be able to enter by air, but I will enter by some path, somewhere I will enter Venezuela, and I will continue the fight from within," the journalist said.



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